DETROIT – Electric vehicles are easier on the environment than their gasoline-powered counterparts, but their long charging times and the scarcity of charging stations can make life hard for the eco-conscious motorists who drive them.

Now help may be on the horizon. Scientists are working to develop refillable, or so-called flow, batteries that can be refueled in minutes at a vast network of converted gas stations. It’s a shift that could make electric vehicles (EVs) more attractive to drivers who are wary of long charging times.

“You drive 300 miles, drain your tank and pump in new [liquid] — as long as it would take to fill your car with gasoline — and drive off,” says John Cushman, a professor of earth and atmospheric sciences and mathematics at Purdue and a leading researcher on liquid battery technology.

Lee Cronin, a chemist at the University of Glasgow in Scotland and another leading researcher on the technology, agrees. He says flow batteries “would turn EVs into the cultural equivalent of a fuel car. Your range anxiety would be gone. And you have the existing pipe infrastructure for moving liquids around” — a reference to the service stations now in existence that could be retrofitted to pump the battery liquid instead of gasoline.

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